Review: She Who Was No More (1952) by Boileau- Narcejac (Trans: Geoffrey Sainsbury)

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Pushkin Vertigo, 2015. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 546 KB. Print Length: 192 pages. First published in French as Celle qui n’était plus by Éditions Denoël in 1952. Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury, 2015. ISBN: 978 1 782271 40 6. ASIN: B010KN807Q.

she-who-was-no-moreSynopsis: Every Saturday evening, travelling salesman Ferdinand Ravinel returns to his wife, Mireille, who waits patiently for him at home. But Ferdinand has another lover, Lucienne, an ambitious doctor, and together the adulterers have devised a murderous plan.

Drugging Mireille, the pair drown her in a bathtub, but in the morning, before the “accidental” death can be discovered, the corpse is gone-so begins the unravelling of Ferdinand’s plot, and his sanity…

My take: She Who Was No More, is the first book in the successful collaboration between Pierre Boileau (28 April 1906 – 16 January 1989) and Pierre Ayraud, aka Thomas Narcejac (3 July 1908 – 9 June 1998). It was originally published in English under the title The Woman Who Was Not. And it’s perhaps best known by its screen version, Les Diaboliques (1955) directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse and Charles Vanel. The story revolves around the murder of Mireille Ravinel at the hands of her husband Ferdinand Ravinel with the complicity of his mistress Lucienne, a physician by profession. Sometime ago,  both husband and wife had signed a life insurance payable also in the event of death by suicide, once elapsed the first two years; what has just happened. But soon after committing the crime, the problems begin. Mireille’s body has disappeared. But Mireille’s ghost isn’t going to leave Ferdinand in peace.

The subject of the book is mainly focussed around the sense of guilt instead of on the murder investigation. As J F Norris rightly states in his review at Pretty Sinister Books: ‘This novel sets the groundwork for future Boileau and Narcejac novels which are always centered on the aftermath of murder and how the criminal is in some ways more of a victim of his crime than the actual corpse.’  Highly recommended. My review of Vertigo is available here.

I look forward to the publication by Pushkin Press of the rest of books by Boileau-Narcejac that, as far as I know, are out of print in English. 

My rating: A (I loved it)

Other reviews: ‘After decades being out of print and nearly all scarce paperback editions in English translation having being bought up by covetous collectors She Who Was No More is once more available in a new paperback edition from Pushkin Vertigo. They have reprinted the original 1954 English translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury (published as The Woman Who Was No More) rather than having a new edition translated. He does a fine job though he lapses into a stilted British idiom a bit too often. Nevertheless, fans of Boileau and Narcejac and those familiar with Les Diaboliques (or The Fiends), as it is known in the movie version, ought to grab a copy soon. Reading the novel is a revelation and an education into the beginnings of a writing team who unlike many lived up to the promise of their first book and proved to surpass this experimental crime novel with a handful of similarly groundbreaking work.’  (Pretty Sinister Books)

‘One of the earliest works Boileau-Narcejac wrote together, parts of the presentation are still pretty raw — but there are many that are done quite well, not least most everything about the clinically prepared Lucienne. Written over half a century ago, there was probably more novelty to the shocking story back then — but even now the final turns hold up, nice, and cold, and sharp.’  (The Complete Review)

‘We’re not meant to like anyone here, and it’s that total lack of sentiment which allows the reader to toss aside sympathy and pity and instead concentrate on the puzzle and the paranoia in this tale of the survival of the most wicked.’  (His Futile Preoccupations …)

‘An excellent book; readers who enjoy more of an existentialist bent will find it delightfully dark, while readers looking for the film’s action may be somewhat disappointed.
Highly, highly recommended — I seriously hope more of the work of Boileau and Nacerjac will be translated some day.’
(the crime segments)

‘And lastly, I have to mention the ending. I love a good twist, and She Who Was No More gave me not one, but two! Well worth sticking around for, and a truly excellent payoff. This was an absolute gem of a book, and I would highly recommend it.’  (The Bookbag)

‘Boileau-Narcejac are masters of their art. If you have ever seen one of those French movies, maybe Le quai des brumes with  Jean Gabin, then you know the feel. There is a certain visual simplicity that is highly atmospherical. A solitary lamppost on an empty street, its yellow halo penetrating the fog. A lonely person in a room smoking and thinking. The pictures are simple but the feelings are complex. Their writing is economical and highly efficient at the same time. I would really like to encourage you to discover these great writers.’  (Beauty is a sleeping cat)

Pushkin Press publicity page

Las diabólicas de Boileau-Narcejac

Sinopsis: Todos los sábados por la tarde, el viajante de comercio Ferdinand Ravinel regresa a su casa en donde le espera pacientemente su esposa, Mireille. Pero Ferdinand tiene una  amante, Lucienne, una médico ambiciosa, y juntos los adúlteros han ideado un plan criminal.

Una vez drogada, la pareja ahoga a Mireille en una bañera, pero por la mañana, antes de que la muerte “accidental” puede descubrirse, el cadáver ha desparecido. De esta manera comienza a desenvolvese la trama de Ferdinand , y su cordura …

Mi opinión: Las diabólicas, es el primer libro de la exitosa colaboración entre Pierre Boileau (28 abril 1906 – 16 enero 1989) y Pierre Ayraud, también conocido como Thomas Narcejac (3 julio 1908 – 9 junio 1998). Fue publicada originalmente en Inglés bajo el título La mujer que no era. Y es quizás más conocida por su versión cinematográfica, Les Diaboliques (1955), dirigida por Henri-Georges Clouzot, protagonizada por Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse y Charles Vanel. La historia gira en torno al asesinato de Mireille Ravinel a manos de su marido Ferdinand Ravinel con la complicidad de su amante Lucienne, médico de profesión. Hace algún tiempo, el marido y la mujer habían firmado un seguro de vida pagadero también en caso de suicidio,  transcurridos los dos primeros años; lo que acaba de ocurrir ahora. Pero poco después de cometer el crimen, los problemas comienzan. El cuerpo de Mireille ha desaparecido. Pero el fantasma de Mireille no va a dejar en paz a Ferdinand.

El tema del libro se centra principalmente en torno al sentimiento de culpa en lugar de en la investigación del asesinato. Como J F Norris señala acertadamente en su reseña en Pretty Sinister Books: ‘Esta novela establece las bases de la próximas novelas de Boileau y Narcejac que siempre se centran en las consecuencias del asesinato y la forma en la que el criminal es, en cierto modo,  más una víctima de su propio delito que el propio cadáver ‘. Muy recomendable. Mi reseña de Vértigo está disponible aquí.

Espero con interés la publicación por Pushkin Press del resto de los libros de Boileau-Narcejac que, hasta donde yo sé, están agotados en inglés. En español RBA ha publicado más recientemente Vértigo con el título de Sudores fríos (tra.: Marta Pino).

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

RBA International Prize for Crime Writing

(Source: Wikipedia)

RBA International Prize for Crime Writing (Spanish: Premio RBA de Novela Negra) is a Spanish sales promotion literary award said to be the world’s most lucrative crime fiction prize at €125,000.  It is funded by Barcelona-based multimedia publishing company RBA.

The award this year goes to (drum roll)

Perros salvajes by Ian Rankin..

I  wonder if  the English title isn’t it, Rather Be the Devil (Inspector Rebus # 21)

Previous winners:

2007 – Francisco González Ledesma, Una novela de barrio

2008 – Andrea Camilleri, La muerte de Amalia Sacerdote

2009 – Philip Kerr, If the Dead Rise Not

2010 – Harlan Coben, Live Wire

2011 – Patricia Cornwell, Red Mist

2012 – Michael Connelly, The Black Box

2013 – Arnaldur Indridason, Skuggasund

2014 – Lee Child, Personal

2015 – Don Winslow, The Cartel

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